President Obama is planning on delivering a speech to public school students. As the Department of Education website notes

During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

A very commendable message indeed…except that some on the right have labeled it as an attempt to promote socialist ideals. In their report, Some Parents Oppose Obama School Speech, the New York Times quotes a parent in Pearland, TX

“The thing that concerned me most about it was it seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child,” said Brett Curtiss, an engineer from Pearland, Tex., who said he would keep his three children home.

“I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

(McKinley, James, Some Parents Oppose Obama School Speech, The New York Times, September 3, 2009)

Conservative talk shows and Conservative politicians like Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell are all ablaze claiming that Obama is trying to create a cult of personality around himself in a similar manner to Kim Jung-il of North Korea and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Republican party chair of Florida even claimed that the speech is politically motivated and he “was appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology” (McKinley, James, Some Parents Oppose Obama School Speech, The New York Times, September 3, 2009).

What has happened to the Republican part of Ronald Reagan? Where has political discourse gone in the past 25 years? The fault is not just the Republicans — the Democrats are also very much to blame for the erosion of thoughtful, meaningful political discourse in today’s society. But the level to which these two sides will stoop appalls me. When I was a child we all listened to a speech given by the President of the United States. The man elected President was President of ALL Americans — not just liberals or conservatives — not just Republicans or Democrats — ALL Americans.

It is one thing to speak up in dissent of governmental policy or action (or inaction) – some consider that to be a form of patriotism (although the actual phrase is inaccurately attributed to Thomas Jefferson) and it is definitely free speech. But the politicization of even the simplest speech by the leader of our country and inaccurately portraying it as an attempt to promote a “socialist” or “liberal” agenda is shameful. Left wing pundits did it during the Bush administration and now the right wing pundits are doing their part during the Obama administration.

What has happened to civil discourse in this country? We need to find it again…or we, as a country, are lost and may well be doomed to repeat the Civil War some day.

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